240 at-risk students will be attending the inaugural year of the I Promise School — and it’s all thanks to LeBron James. The NBA superstar created the school as an extension of the LeBron James Family Foundation to give kids opportunities to thrive despite difficult life situations.
In November 2017, the LeBron James Family Foundation approached the Akron school board about assisting in the creation of a school designed to help at-risk kids who are lagging behind in their studies and struggling at home.
The I Promise School is a joint venture between the foundation and Akron Public Schools. The school board oversaw the creation of the curriculum and ensured the school would meet educational standards, while LeBron served as the primary donor to help shape the outside-the-classroom goals of the school.
LeBron James says opening school in Akron is one of the most important accomplishments in his life
How does the I Promise School differ from any other school?
The school will operate with a longer-than-normal school year, with a focus on accelerated learning to bring kids up to speed who otherwise might be lagging. In addition, there is a focus on combating factors outside of the classroom that could cause children to struggle.
Services are available to help students deal from stress related to parents who are struggling to make ends meet. In addition there are activities to prevent the kids from having too much idle time and potentially getting into trouble.
The school also provides services to families, which include job placement assistance for parents and an on-site food bank that will allow parents to pick out foods they can prepare at home.
LeBron James often credits his bicycle as a huge factor in his childhood that gave him an escape from dangerous parts of his neighborhood and the freedom to explore — every student will receive a bicycle when they arrive.
Principal Brandi Davis explained the goals of the I Promise School:
“I think the missing link in public education is that family wraparound support,” said Brandi Davis, the school’s principal. “Because our students come to school and they’re worried about things at home. … We want to create that safe, that secure and that caring and loving environment for our families and our students so that our kids can focus on education.”
The LeBron James Family Foundation has been involved in helping Akron and its surrounding areas for years. In 2015 he announced an initiative that would pay for more than 1,000 kids to attend college.
LeBron has also funded the “Wheels for Education” program, which started in 2011 and provides kids with school supplies, access to computers, and a bicycle inside a system designed to keep kids motivated to complete their homework and get good grades.
As to what ultimately motivated LeBron to make this happen, he explained why in his speech announcing the opening of the school:
“I want people to know that these kids should still have the same opportunity as everybody else. As adults, we have a responsibility to not let these kids down, to continue to be the teachers, the mentors, the parents, the coaching, the life skills, the superheroes … whatever it is that gives the inspiration, everything, that’s our responsibility. These kids are our future and they have dreams and aspirations bigger than the city of Akron, than the state of Ohio, than the USA.”